The UFC seems to be having a hard time finding a fight for No. 7 ranked lightweight Khabib Nurmagomedov.
By all appearances, Nurmagomedov had been booked to face Gilbert Melendez at UFC 170. UFC Tonight went so far as to tweet that the fight was official and the UFC put the two fighters on a poster that promotion president Dana White taped to his lectern at the post-fight press conference of UFC 168.
That fight fell apart, as did negotiations to have Nurmagomedov face No. 5 ranked Nate Diaz in the main event of an as yet announced April 11 fight card. Somewhere in the middle of all this, White made the statement that no one in the lightweight division wanted to face Nurmagomedov.
On Monday, Nurmagomedov appeared on The MMA Hour along with his manager and translator Sam Kardan. When asked if he agreed with White’s statement that all of the 155 pound division were afraid to fight him, Nurmagomedov said, “I wouldn’t go so far as to say that everyone is afraid to fight me. I know that Dana White said that the elite of the lightweight division is afraid to fight me. I guess they don’t want to lose to someone like myself who’s not as famous or not as popular as they are.”
Specifically discussing the inability to make the Melendez or Diaz fight happen due to contract hangups, Nurmagomedov said, “I guess Melendez and Diaz need to work things out with the UFC. I’m ready, I’m working out. I’m in top shape. I’m ready fight. It’s been about four months since my last fight with (Pat) Healy. I’m ready, they need to work things out.”
Nurmagomedov didn’t seem angry that they two West Coast based fighters turned down the fight. In fact, Nurmagomedov seemed to be very understanding of the situation the two veteran fighters would be in facing a relative unknown with a 21-0 record, “I understand that it’s going to be a tough fight for them. I don’t have as much of a name in the US right now as they do, so a loss to someone like myself with definitely set them back. So, I do get that. I do get the business aspect of it, but I do think they should fight. If they say they are willing to fight the best, they should fight the best. If they want, I’ll take them both at once in the cage.”
Nurmagomedov added another fighter to his wish list on Monday, saying he felt that No. 3 ranked T.J. Grant would be an opponent he would be willing to fight. Grant is currently on the mend from a concussion, and has not fought since earning a TKO win over Gray Maynard in May 2013.
One name that Nurmagomedov did not add to his wish list was Michael Johnson; a fighter that took to twitter to say that he would fight Nurmagomedov after the Melendez and Diaz fights failed to come to fruition.
When asked why he was not willing to face the No. 13 ranked Johnson, Nurmagomedov replied, “My goal is to fight Melendez, Grant or Diaz because I think they would be more of a challenge to me. I would say that if one of those three does not accept a fight with me, I may have to fight him (Johnson), but he has losses in the UFC by decision and submission, so I don’t think he’s posing as much of a challenge at this point.”
Johnson (14-8) is on a two-fight winning streak. Prior to winning his last two he went 4-4 in the UFC with losses to Jonathan Brookins, Paul Sass, Myles Jury and Reza Madadi. Johnson’s last two wins came over Joe Lauzon and Gleison Tibau.
Nurmagomedov said he prefers to fight on one of the April UFC cards, but that he is ready to go right now, and will fight whenever the promotion needs him.
Perhaps hoping that Diaz or Melendez will change their minds and sign to fight him, Nurmagomedov offered the following, “This message is for Nate and Melendez, if you take the fight I won’t hit you hard, I’ll just wrestle you.”
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